Just in case you hadn’t noticed all the media coverage, the United States has a significant problem with addiction to opioid painkillers. That problem is only getting worse. Even the Superbowl commercials are focusing on how devastatingly dependent America has become on opioids. This year, there was a commercial provocative enough to draw attention from major newspapers.
Opioids themselves are a class of drugs that act on opioid receptors located on nerve cells within the brain. That interaction leads to pain relief and a number of pleasurable side effects. There is constant buzz around many of the drugs in this category, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and even heroin. You may also be aware of the highly addictive nature of this class of drug. This makes them a double-edged sword when it comes to treatment.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2014 alone more than 21.5 million Americans had a substance use disorder. 1.9 million of which directly involved prescription pain relievers. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. So, it may be surprising to find out that nearly half of those overdose deaths involve opioid pain relievers. Not convinced this is a problem yet? Well, if you watched Super Bowl 50, you might have noticed that aforementioned odd black and white commercial during the second quarter. That ad was about opioid-induced constipation. During the most watched television event of the year, at a cost of $5 million for every 30 seconds, an entire ad was taken out for a drug meant to treat the side effects of other drugs.
Painkillers have their place in medicine. They save lives. They are very important to health care professionals. The worry is, however, that the ease with which they can cause addiction and the way they are controlled and dispensed needs to be looked at closely. It is simply too easy to dismiss any kind of pain with a quick prescription. Or to pass the buck on long-term treatment options with those same drugs. In 2010 alone, the sales of painkillers were four times higher than they were in the previous decade.
Painkillers in Culture
Prescription painkillers have become so prevalent, so pervasive, in our society that we have actually developed new drugs just to deal with the side effects of taking them. The Washington Post commented on this and that particular Superbowl ad, shining another spotlight on the issue. Ultimately, it is shocking that rather than dealing with the problem that painkillers have begun to present by looking for alternative solutions to pain, pharmaceutical companies instead opt to put a bandage on the side effects and continue pushing them.
If you are experiencing pain, whether it is chronic or acute, it might pay to look into alternative therapies that don’t require prescription painkillers. The potential for adverse reactions to the drugs or dependency problems is just too great. Two potential avenues for pain alleviation are acupuncture and adjustment from a licensed chiropractor, both of which have been shown to be effective in the treatment of pain. Drugs are not always the answer, they should be the last resort. Be vigilant about alternative treatments before risking the potential damaging effects that prescription opioids can sometimes present.
To find out how Dr. Michael Newman and his compassionate staff can offer alternative treatments for your pain, call to book an appointment.